One Year After Rainier: Lessons Learned and Looking Forward

Rainier over Puget Sound
Rainier over Puget Sound

May 20th, 2012 was supposed to be one of the best days of my climbing career. I was poised to summit Rainier, get my first peak, my first snow and ice climb and accomplish a task I had trained long and hard though. Instead it was one of the most terrifying days of my life. Caught and devoid of energy in a windswept snowstorm, turned around 500 ft under the summit. unable to see because of ice buildup in my goggles, and having to have others help guide my way through tricky narrow pathways, it was a day that made me question many things and almost completely quit climbing. It was a sobering and eye opening lesson on how wrong things can turn very quickly. 

After Rainier, I got myself together. That in inconsolable feeling of having come so close and those last 500 ft have felt like a weight on my shoulders. It was unfinished business, so I decided I had to move. A year later I’m not living under the shadow, I get to look at it almost every day, and i’m living among talented, inspiring, and established climbers who i’ve already learned so much from. So having put the experience in my past, I’d like to reflect on what this experience has meant so far and where my future is headed.

When I came back home after my first trip, I could still feel every ache and pain from my legs to my neck. It was a painful reminder of what had just happened. About three weeks after, I took a trip out to New River in West Virginia, and it was on that trip that climbing felt natural and real again. I was reminded of every reason why I first fell in love with the community. It’s a strange passion to explain. It’s viewed as needlessly risky, daredevilish, pushing the limits of what’s possible, and where people are not meant to be. For me it represents challenge. Something I was needing. It represented setting a singular goal, a singular route or a singular peak, and finding the training, the conditioning, the right ways to make it possible. It’s a very goal oriented sport, fueled by very passionate individuals. When a Florida boy who had spent his time training by running on South Beach made his way to a glaciated peak in the Cascades, it demonstrates the length and the dedication that climbers are willing to put to make their goals possible.

Leading a pitch at Vantage
Leading a pitch at Vantage

Ever since moving to Washington i’ve been able to take my sport and my ambitions to higher levels. Three consecutive trips out east to Vantage have introduced me to new skills, more challenging routes, a host of incredible individuals, and an accepting community that has adopted me and allowed me to thrive. When people talk about living a dream, i’m in it right now. This last month has shown a big jump in my abilities. I’ve fully led my first route, set anchors, learned to clean them, learn to manage my body and energy, and most important of all, i’ve been on the proper fitness, training, and diet routines to make everything possible. I’ve realized that I might not be the powerful climber, able to take on complicated moves and high grade routes, but I do have the endurance, the ability to go on for extended periods of time and knowing when to rest my body. Although my first lead routes were terrifying when I realize how much run out the rope creates, i’ve become comfortable with trusting my gear and trusting my partners. My experience here so far has been a major success, and now it’s time that I take it to the places where I want to be.

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that I refuse to take a step on snow and ice again. The idea of getting caught in another major event terrified me, I didn’t think I would ever be ready, I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity. I’ve decided to put fear and doubt away and move forward with what I truly felt was my place. Big walls, big objectives, big peaks, and longer more ambitious climbing. This summer i’ve decided that my climbing partner and I are attending an alpine course in the North Cascades, a chance to get onto some of the famed granite alpine towers. We’ll be learning new skills, new abilities, and by the end we should have the knowledge and the know how to launch our own ambitious plans. We’re making plans for a return to Rainier next summer as well as looking over a short trip to some of my favorite southwestern climbing spots. It only a few months to become part of the community here and now it’s time that I come into my own and really show what i’m able to do.

One year later. After an eye opening experience, after meeting incredible people, fueling a move, and become part of an incredible community of ambitious climbers, i’m launching my life the way I want it to be. Not bound by where I came from geographically but dreaming of higher places, new objectives, and now finding the way to make them possible. It’s going to be an exciting summer.

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